April 15, 2010

Bringing Native foods to the fore

Fry Bread Nation:  The Birth of a 'Native' CuisineJacobs and Chandra—the owners of Tocabe, an American Indian fast-casual restaurant in Denver that serves stuffed tacos, sweet fry bread nuggets, and, of course, classic Indian tacos—are part of a larger movement that is bringing Native American foods to the fore. From the acclaimed Kai restaurant in Phoenix to Fernando and Marlene Divina's James Beard Award-winning cookbook, Foods of the Americas, to the White Earth Land Recovery Project, which sells traditional foods like wild rice and hominy, this long-overlooked is cuisine is slowly gaining traction in the broader culinary landscape.Educating the public:The partners see their restaurant as an opportunity to educate the public about a cuisine that has received little attention. "Overall, American Indians have not pushed for that," Jacobs says. "We need to help push it." He adds that consumers' lack of experience with native cooking reflects a broader dearth of knowledge about American Indian culture. "People come in and ask questions about Native Americans in general," Jacobs says of the inquiries Chandra and he receive about reservation life and federal per capita payments. "They don't realize that there are 500 different tribes and that we don't know everything, but they ask and we try to find answers."What's behind the trend:"There's a huge push for food history and where food comes from," Hetzler says. Blue Spruce agrees. "We benefited from timing. I'm no foodie, but I'm aware of the tremendous focus on organic food and getting food from good sources," he says. "All of those things have kind of fed into people's acceptance of the food that we serve."

This interest in sustainably sourced food has fueled a large number of other Native American purveyors onto the scene. The Intertribal Agricultural Council has registered more than 500 "Made by American Indian Trademarks," which identify agricultural and food products made by federally recognized tribes. These products, a large portion of which are organic, free-range, or wild, range from sockeye salmon to buffalo and cranberry power bars to chocolate covered potato chips.
Comment:  Foods are one of the greatest Native contributions to Western civilization, of course.

For more on the subject, see Aboriginal Chefs Aim for Culinary Olympics and Frybread = "Impending Doom."

1 comment:

Not Enough Dough in OK said...

Its about time. I am from Oklahoma and you would think that as many tribes that there are there, frybread, and "good" frybread makers are somewhat of a lost craft. When men become better bread makers than women, what does that tell you?
There are two things Oklahoma Indians are weak in compared to other states, that is privately Indian owned small businesses and communications like radio and television outlets. Even South Dakota has KILI Radio and Navajos have a broadcast outlet.

I had always hoped some restaurant sold frybread and Indian corn in Oklahoma, but you have to go to a pow-wow, something Oklahoma has no shortage of. Go figure?